Starting a business can be full of highs and lows. No matter how prepared you think you are before starting up, you can’t avoid the many learning curves that lie ahead. Wouldn’t it be great to be two steps ahead of these challenges?
I spoke with Daniel Lewis, an entrepreneur based in Brampton, Canada, who started his own tea business, T By Daniel. Daniel shared with me the top things he wished he knew before starting his business, so he didn’t have to learn these lessons the hard way.
1. I wish I knew how important it is to have a REAL accountant!
A common mistake many entrepreneurs face when starting out is that they believe that they are capable of doing it all. It’s okay not to be an expert in everything and to accept help from others, and with finances being so important to not just a new business, but any business, this is a place where you shouldn’t cut corners.
“When I first started T By Daniel, it felt more like a really cool hobby rather than a business, therefore I didn’t see the need to hire an accountant or have someone responsible for my finances,” Daniel explained. Daniel found himself trying his best to keep track of his expenses but before he knew it, T By Daniel was taking off and growing and he began to lose grip of his finances all together. “After two years and thousands of dollars in sales and expenses, I was forced to fork up a ton of money to bring in an accountant to help rectify and make sense out of it all.”
2. I wish I understood how to price my products & services properly.
How do you really know your worth, and make sure you are not only breaking even but also making profit? This is a common question entrepreneurs have when starting out, especially since they don’t want to overprice and not make sales, but don’t want to lose money either.
“I figured if I purchased the tea for a certain amount then all I had to do was sell it for a little more—maybe twice or three times the amount—whatever, as long as I wasn’t losing money,” Daniel shared his initial thoughts on pricing. What Daniel wasn’t accounting for in his original pricing was the water to make the tea, the tea bag to steep it in, the cup, the lid, and the labour, all of which went into making a single cup of tea. “This mistake caused me to have to change our pricing three times since launching.”
3. I wish I really understood the level of commitment that comes with personal branding.
When starting T By Daniel, Daniel decided he wanted to make himself the face of his brand. With his funky style, he was going to put his face and name on the packaging. From this, people started falling in love with the brand, and this meant that Daniel behind T By Daniel had to always be at the front of the line of work. “I could never again be found not working,” Daniel said. “When customers, followers and tea drinking fans see me in the grocery story, the doctors office, or even worse, sitting in a coffee shop, I receive all kinds of comments.”
Daniel quickly learned the importance of branding for your business, and personal branding, and now realizes the tremendous effect it can have on your overall business success. Branding is important, but he’s learned the hard way that your personal brand includes your personal life and although it can be fun, it means it’s hard to separate yourself from work or take a break.
4. I wish I kept my 9-5 job until I was personally debt free.
It can be tough to balance your new business venture and a full-time career, but when you’re just starting your business, this is often necessary in order to make ends meet. When Daniel realized his calling of becoming a tea retailer, he quit he job instantly. “I couldn’t spend another day building someone else’s dream when all I could do is fantasize about my own,” he said.
“In some sense this was the greatest move for me, as it automatically tossed me into the grind where I was forced to make it work. However, on the other side I had little to no start-up money to put into my business and the little money that I did have, I had to use to pay down my personal debt.” Because of this, the process of starting and building a business was completely slowed down, preventing Daniel from putting very much money towards T By Daniel. Even when the business started generating income, he was using that money to catch up on debt that was putting everything at risk. Looking back, he wishes he better utilized his guaranteed paychecks from his 9-5 to help him scale his business more effectively.
No matter how much planning you do, or how qualified in the industry you are, you can’t avoid the learning curves and lessons you’ll get when starting your own business. The path to a successful business is different for everyone, and the most important part of hitting a roadblock, is that you problem solve and find a way to overcome it.
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About the Author
Lauren Marinigh is a Toronto-based online marketing and content development professional, who is completely addicted to traveling, puppies, and GIFs.